State legislators threaten to alter constitution to avoid allocating more to schools

From the Lawrence Journal-World:

By Scott Rothschild

TOPEKA — Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, said Monday that state leaders are considering putting a constitutional amendment on the ballot in April that would thwart a court-ordered increase in school funding.

The proposal is in response to last week’s ruling by a three-judge panel that the Kansas Legislature had failed its constitutional duty to provide adequate school funding. The panel said the state must increase school funding by $440 million.

“We clearly disagree with the courts,” said Wagle on the first day of the 2013 legislative session. “We believe they have overstepped their boundaries. We believe they should not be appropriators and that that role should be clearly left in the hands of elected officials.”

Attorney General Derek Schmidt has filed notice to appeal the ruling to the Kansas Supreme Court.

A constitutional change must be adopted by a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate and be approved by a simple majority of voters in a statewide election.

The education article of the Kansas Constitution commands legislators to “make suitable provision for finance of the educational interests of the state.” The Supreme Court has said in rulings in 2005 and 2006 that lawmakers must finance an adequate education for every child, keep up with rising educational costs and ensure that schools continually improve.

Wagle said there have been discussions on possible amendments that would either remove the “suitable provision” or more specifically spell out that the Legislature is in charge of school finance.